When I was a child, I talked like a child. I walked like a child. I spoke like a child. When I became a woman, I matured and began to speak like a woman. I walked like a woman. I ate like a woman. Though to be fully truthful, I still want to eat candy like a child.
When I became a leader, I looked to the world around me to tell me what a leader was. In every environment where I have felt loved, comfortable and accepted, I quickly have risen as a leader or at least I rose to what the world defines as a leader. When I became a disciple, I put away worldly things and looked to my Savior to give me a new definition of leadership.
He chose to disciple me in the truly beautiful environment of Celebrate Recovery. Here I learned that a leader in the kingdom of God has a core role no matter what their other responsibilities are, and that core role is to demonstrate grace. In every action with every person whom they are discipling, there is a guiding question, “How do I demonstrate God’s grace to this person in this moment?”
There I learned that it was from my “Christian” leaders that I should expect to receive the most grace in life and it was to those who followed me that I should expect to demonstrate the most grace. Thus it doesn’t surprise me that one of the closest people to me in my life once put me through the wringer, calling me a hypocrite and saying many other unpleasant things as they tried valiantly to “recover” from the massive amount of pain life had handed them. It was my pleasure and it is my pleasure to receive and give love and grace from and to them.
Grace. The foundation of discipleship. That beautiful gift from God that enables us to come boldly into His presence. Grace and forgiveness: that which I can give freely because He freely gave it to me.
At Celebrate Recovery, you learn how to demonstrate grace by how your leaders consistently demonstrate it to you. They are not perfect; but when they aren’t, they repent and apologize. Naturally, not all the leaders do this, but this is the training of the program and the message of grace. This is how it is lived. Openly, honestly and transparently. Not merely baring a heart when in a public position of leadership, but consistently and constantly baring it in face of accusation and the vulnerability of leading out of the public eye – where all true leadership actually happens.
The truly difficult thing about this can be being open, honest and transparent when those following you have been deeply hurt by you. Being humble enough to say, “show me how I have done it, so I can never do it again.”
Recently, someone told me that my sarcasm hurt them. I wanted to respond, “What sarcasm?” which was proof that my sarcasm needed some work. (Just as an aside, Jesus was not sarcastic; He used hyperbole. Not at all the same thing.) It led to a really long conversation about unhealthy ways that I communicate with this person. I had and have a lot to change.
I don’t mind when people come to me and tell me that I am hurting them. In general, I don’t want to hurt people. Sometimes I know that people will never hear what they need to hear without being “hurt”. It sucks to have to hurt them then. Ultimately, God alone is in control over whether any of it really matters.
If I ever want to lead anyone closer to God – whether it is as a leader in an “official” leadership role or a random stranger on the street, I must be able to demonstrate God’s grace. I must be willing to be utterly vulnerable with those I have hurt and willing to change the way I operate so that I do not hurt people. Is not that really the only purpose of following Him besides bringing Him glory? To learn how I might hurt others less? To know how I sin, what the sin dynamic is in my personality, and how I can change it so as to bring more healing and less pain into this world?
But I digress. I was a sinner. I am saved by grace. Grace, which justifies me before His throne. Grace, which gives me power to be set free from all my sin.
What does it mean to you to demonstrate God’s grace? Do you give the people you lead an opportunity to heal and grow? Or do you tend to bind them to their sin with the Law?